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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Cumbrian M-Sport expansion could create 100 jobs

M-Sport today revealed plans for a groundbreaking multi-million pound expansion that could create up to 100 jobs.

The world-renowned rally and racing business wants to move into road cars and create a research, development and testing operation unique to the UK at its Dovenby Hall headquarters, near Cockermouth.

It’s part of a 10-year masterplan which could also see a top-class 60-bedroom hotel and 25 homes built on the edge of the estate from which the firm has plotted global glory.

Proposals will be unveiled to staff and those living close to the site next week as part of a consultation ahead of plans being submitted to Allerdale Council.

The development would mark the start of a major shift for M-Sport, which already employs 200 people, as its expert engineers look to expand all they’ve learned developing cars for rallying and racing into those for the road – opening up massive new markets.

If plans are approved, work could start on the expansion later this year.

M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson is driving the development and is excited at the opportunities it could offer.

He said: “We want to see the business develop and grow.

“This is, for me, the next logical step, particularly given the fact that the motor industry is the fastest growing sector of industry in the UK.

“It's important that we add value to the business. That's what we would be able to provide for from this facility.”

Plans also include erecting a single wind turbine to produce power for the estate and new offices, as well as other support buildings.

But at the centre of the development is a 10,900sq m research and development operation, the M-Sport Evaluation Centre.

It will take the firm from its rallying roots to the general automotive market.

Its mission will be to develop, test and evaluate vehicles for the roads.

M-Sport wants to work with manufacturers to create cutting-edge cars.

Its centre would be the only place in the country where cars could be designed, built, tested then fine-tuned with even the most minor parts tailor-made at one location.

Operations would focus on developing low volumes of cars that motor firms would struggle to put on big production lines – exploiting a lucrative niche market.

Mr Wilson, the former champion rally driver who founded the firm and created it into a global force with two World Rally Championships to its credit, said: “There are other test facilities in the UK, but they will not have the same technical know-how and facilities as we will have here.

“Someone will be able to come here and have access to a design and engineering team.

“We will have our own resources for manufacturing. It will be unique in that sense.”

The potential for 100 new jobs is in stark contrast to the situation M-Sport found itself in less than 18 months ago when 200 posts were at risk after Ford announced it was withdrawing its funding due to the global economic crisis.

That led to Mr Wilson launching a major operation to save the business, managing to cement M-Sport’s place as one of four manufacturers in this year’s World Rally Championship.

M-Sport also develops specialist Ford Fiesta rally cars for other customers, selling them all over the world and has moved into racing as part of a deal with Bentley to develop and run a car for its new motorport team.

Potential for the massive investment – and the spin-offs it could bring – has been hailed as a significant boost for Cumbria’s economy.

John Grainger, managing director of inward investment agency Invest in Cumbria, said: “This isn't just safeguarding 200 jobs, but is also an investment for the future.

“This development ticks all the boxes in terms of research and development expertise and high-value jobs. It's tremendous.”

Letters have been sent to 800 households close to Dovenby Hall whose residents can attend an invite-only consultation about the proposals on Monday, where plans will be on display.

M-Sport are in action as part of Rally Mexico in the World Rally Championship this weekend.

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